I really loved getting to know Amy this week and I think you will too. She is a newly-separated Mom of an almost-grown daughter and recently moved to a stunning little apartment in Boston.
She speaks very lovingly about urban living and the advantages it has afforded her and her daughter. And she also speaks wisely about life’s transitions; a child growing up and getting ready to leave the home, a marriage ending and recreating a new life. You’ll really be glad you spent some time with her. Welcome, Amy!
Hi there, I’m Amy. I live with my daughter Georgia (17), an aspiring actor who’s been acting since she was five. She attends a high school of the arts and can’t wait to graduate, move to Los Angeles, and start her career! Georgia has been driven to act and perform since she learned it was a career possibility. As a newborn on the subway, she’d always check to make sure people were looking at her. This girl has never seen a spotlight she didn’t want to be in. Her father and I separated in summer 2018 in what our mediator called the friendliest divorce ever.
I never dreamed of being a mom and actually planned on never having kids. After many conversations on the topic, I agreed to have one kid and it’s the best decision I ever thought I didn’t want! Being a mom changed my perspective in so many ways that I can’t imagine my life without her in it.
One of the things I have loved the most is creating family traditions like our annual summer folk festival week, celebrating Dutch Christmas, and beach house backyard movie nights that always start with Mamma Mia. Keeping these traditions alive post-separation is one way I try to make the divorce easier on Georgia.
I work for myself as a management consultant and executive coach where I help executives to become more effective leaders, lead organizations through big changes, and facilitate strategic planning processes. I also have a business leading transformational retreats for women. At Perfect Avocado Retreats our mission is to remind women of their big dreams, guide them in identifying obstacles along the way, and assist them in creating implementation plans to actualize those dreams — ultimately changing their world and THE WORLD in the process. I love combining my management consulting work with the retreats to ensure women leave our retreats with an actionable plan to achieve their dreams.
We live in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. It’s famous for the Battle of Bunker Hill (“Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes!”), and the USS Constitution, given the nickname Old Ironsides during the Battle of 1812.
More recently it’s famous as the setting of the movie The Town which was actually filmed right on our street! There was a time when Charlestown’s one square mile had more bank robbers than any other place in the U.S..
The neighborhood has changed a lot since then. While there has been a lot of gentrification it’s still one of the most economically diverse areas of Boston.
We can walk almost anywhere in downtown Boston or take a train, bus or boat! Charlestown is part of Boston but sits across the Charles River from the rest of the city. It has been a great place to raise a child. We can walk to at least 10 playgrounds, parks and fields, and the Museum of Science.
In the time we’ve been here, more and more families are choosing to stay instead of leaving for the suburbs once their kids reach school age. There are good public and private school options. It’s an expensive area in an expensive city but everything available nearby makes it worth it! The prices in this neighborhood have increased like a rocket in the past 20 years. We bought our two-bedroom condo for $222,000 and sold it for a little over $800,000.
When my husband and I separated we sold the condo we had lived in for 20 years. It was built in 1860 and had terrific features like beautiful molding and wide pine floors. It also had its quirks — like the stairs to the second-floor bedrooms which were almost a ladder. That house was on the Bunker Hill battlefield in the shadow of the Bunker Hill Monument.
I loved that place. It was my first experience of being a homeowner. My daughter was born there. I became a mother there.
When we sold that place I knew I wanted to stay in the neighborhood because I love it and also to create some stability for Georgia. I knew that as a newly single mom I didn’t want the maintenance required of living in an old house. I didn’t want to buy something because I don’t plan to stay in Boston once Georgia leaves for college or L.A. or whatever she goes after high school.
I focused my search on the Navy Yard section of Charlestown. The Charlestown Navy Yard was established in 1800 to build and service U.S. warships which it did until it closed in 1975. Today it is a 30 acre Boston National Historic Park. The buildings once used to build ships have been converted to condos and apartments.
We ended up finding the apartment of my dreams in one of those converted buildings that were redesigned as condos. The common areas were designed by international designer Phillippe Starck. His sculptures are scattered around the lobby.
It is such a luxury to live here with a concierge, pool, gym and best of all: covered parking. No more shoveling the car out after winter storms! The minute I walked in the for the first time, I knew this was the place for me.
The floor to ceiling windows highlight the amazing view of the entire Boston skyline, including the landmark Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, and the Old North Church where Paul Revere famously looked for one or two lanterns.
I love the corner of my bedroom where I sit in my favorite chair and journal and meditate everyday. It’s the perfect spot to curl up with a book and watch the sunset. The blackout curtains allow me to block out the city lights and get a great night’s sleep.
For a small apartment it has amazing closet space. I love the “landing pad” right at the front door and the glass cabinet for my bar. Georgia and I have our own bathrooms which is a luxury after coming from sharing one bathroom with three people.
It was fun to decorate without having to compromise! Starting with my grandparents living room furniture from the 1930s and building from there. I also work at home so I needed to incorporate an office where there wasn’t one. I used an IKEA butcher block countertop and added legs.
My favorite things are the touches of Amsterdam scattered around as a reminder of where I plan to move after this. I feel joy every day when I walk in the door.
For her birthday this year, I gave Georgia a certificate with a budget to decorate her room. She’d been curating a Pinterest board for months and it was fun to help her achieve her vision.
Urban living isn’t for everyone but I can’t imagine not living in a city. For my whole adult life I’ve been an urban dweller — SF, Atlanta, NYC, DC, and Boston. I don’t think I could ever live in a suburban or rural environment. I love that I am not dependent on my car for everything. I can walk, use public transit, or bike for most of my needs — Boston had been adding lots of protected bike lanes over the last few years.
I think it was great for my daughter to grow up in the city. She’s had a lot of freedom. She’s been riding the T, Boston’s public transit system, alone since she was 11. She’s able to get pretty much everywhere she needs or wants to be without having to rely on someone to drive her.
I appreciate the access we have to museums, concerts, and sporting events. The downside is if you do have to drive somewhere it’s a nightmare! Boston was recently named the city with the worst traffic in the country. Going just a few miles can take an hour.
While there are perks to city-living, like the availability of Lyfts/Ubers ,and food delivery at all hours of the day and night, I admit it’s not for everyone. You are living in very close proximity to everyone else. You will almost always hear your neighbors, reservations are required at many restaurants, and there will usually be a crowd wanting to do just what you are doing. On the plus side you will be exposed to people from all cultures and hear many languages spoken as you go about your day.
The hardest thing for me to get used to, post separation, was not having my daughter around all the time. She lives 40% of the time with her dad and I miss her when she’s gone. In some ways, it feels like this happened at a good time. It’s easing me into having an empty nest.
Her dad and I co-parent well so while I am a single mom, I don’t feel like I’m in this alone. Now that I am used to the custody arrangement, it’s actually nice to have nights to myself. My daughter is a day student at a boarding school and eats most of her meals at school. I have had to get used to cooking for one. I’m still not good at it and end up with lots of leftovers. (I’d love advice about cooking for one!)
My mom superpower is raising a fully functioning adult. I stepped back as often as I could and let her fail, make mistakes and learn from them. I taught her to do her own laundry and make her own lunches when she was seven. How to talk to adults, ask for what she needs and figure things out. People have always commented on how independent she is at every age compared to her peers. She flew alone (not as an unaccompanied minor) internationally, including navigating customs, when she was 12, AT HER REQUEST.
As I write this I am realizing that my superpower really was believing in her ability, and creating a secure base from which she could explore and experiment. I credit The book Duct Tape Parenting and its author and parenting coach Vicki Hoeffle, for giving me the courage to follow my instincts and let her independent nature lead the way.
I hope she looks back and sees that while at the time it rocked her world, we did our best to make the divorce easy on her. I hope she remembers the traditions we created, the friends who became family, the places we traveled, the summers at the beach house, and the care we took making sure she was always in the right school for her. I hope she always believes in magic, fairies, Santa, and Mickey Mouse. I hope she remembers the political campaigns I dragged her along on, knocking on doors, listening to speeches and the amazing women role models she met along the way. Mostly, I hope she remembers that we believed in and supported her dreams.
I hope she forgets what a crazy driver I am, screaming at other drivers. I hope she realizes how much we both love her and wanted her with us even though it was disruptive for her to be living between two houses.
Staring down an empty nest I think a lot about what I am going to miss about living with Georgia. I am going to miss her sense of humor. No one can make me laugh like she can. I love how she dreams big dreams and has always been so clear and driven in going after them.
I wish someone had told me that every parenting decision isn’t as important as it feels at the time. Your kids will be the people they are meant to be, not because of or in spite of you. You have very little influence over that. You are the best parent for your child, no book or expert knows more than you, so listen to your intuition and let it drown out the noise.
There is a lot of pressure as a parent of a Junior to be hyper-focused on college. There doesn’t seem to be much room for going a different route. I am working hard to drown out the noise and do what is best for my child. She’s saying she wants to delay or possibly skip college altogether. She’s a hard worker and passionately committed to her dreams. It’s my job as her parent to support her, but to remember it’s her life. It’s not about how it makes me look as a parent but to remember what’s best for her.
Thank you, Amy!
I love all the bits of historic Boston trivia that Amy dropped into her story! It must be so interesting to live in a place like Boston with so much American history all around you. And I imagine that waking up to those amazing views through those floor-to-ceiling windows is really magical every day.
I also really appreciated what Amy said about the changes she has faced or will be facing in her life. It is so smart to look at the time she spends away from her daughter, as a practice for when she is an empty-nester. It’s taking something that is probably a bit difficult and strange, and embracing it for what it is and using it as a chance to grow. And I really loved what she said about believing in her daughter and being a launching pad for her and a safe place for her to grow from. That’s such a brilliant way to think about parenting.
What kinds of thing do you do to help your kids explore their freedom, with you as a safety net? Would you feel comfortable having them, for example, navigate public transit on their own? What tricks do you have, to help you believe in your kids abilities and let them do their own thing?
Yellow chair (maybe not available in yellow anymore.)
Blue and White Vase
Find out more about Amy’s women’s retreats here or follow them on Instagram. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.
Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
17 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Amy Branger”
What a lovely peek into Amy’s home, life, and parenting style! As a fellow Bostonian and Bay Area transplant who is considering a move, it was especially nice to hear about all of the positives I’ll miss, like the cultural diversity, museums, restaurants, history, and public transportation (despite its delays, I will always love the T). Thanks Amy!
Love, your neighbor in East Cambridge :)
Thanks Sarah! I am also a SF transplant and haven’t ever felt I really belonged here. #notanewenglander
I admire her goal to move to Amsterdam in the future. I myself couldn’t take that jump. I’m just not that secure. Kudos to a confident, independent woman!
Hi Deb. I am a risk taker who thrives on change from way back ;-)
I also struggle with cooking for 1 but am slowly finding a system that works for me — I’ll cook two meals a week with 4 servings each, eating two portions during the week and freezing the other two while taking something that’s in the freezer out for the week. That gives me 6 meals for the week, which I spread between lunch and dinner; I usually get at least 1 meal a week either through work or events I attend, and the rest I’ll scrape together through grocery store salads or ordering from the Korean BBQ place in my neighborhood. It’s not a perfect solution, and it varies depending on my work schedule and if I’m traveling, but it is the best balance I have found thus far.
Veena I love the idea of rotating from the freezer! I end up making too many servings and getting sick of that meal after a day or 2. I am going to try this. Thank you!!
That is exactly the same problem that I have! I have so much respect for people who can meal prep on a Sunday and eat the same thing every day for the week, but I am not that person. This keeps things interesting for me, cuts down on my food waste, and allows me to enjoy meals I really enjoy a few weeks later.
Another thing a friend and I have toyed with is a meal swap: essentially that we would each cook two meals on a Sunday and then pack half the portions and swap with the other person. We have yet to execute it because of our wonky schedules, but I still think it sounds cool. It helps that we live a 5-minute walk from each other, so hand off would be easy :)
I love this! The narrative and the pictures tell a wonderful personal story. I love seeing how lives and homes are created!
Thank you Jill. It was a little scary putting it all out there but I’ve gotten such great feedback.
I like your Pesach platter very much. Is there a story behind it? Where was it purchased?
Thanks Karen. That does have a story. I really wanted a Delft seder plate. I looked all over Amsterdam even went to the Portuguese Synagogue and the Jewish Museum and couldn’t find anything. Then I was in a little antique store across from the Anne Frank house that had a lot of Delft. I asked the man running it (who was at least 90!) if he had one and he pulled this out from the back of a shelf! I am so happy it made it home in one piece!
Amy, May I ask why you’re moving to Amsterdam? Job? Family? Just something you’ve been hoping to do because you love the city?
I’m in a great career now but one day we’re looking to make a BIG move too.
I have always wanted to live in another country. I love Amsterdam for the beauty and the quality of life. Also everyone speaks English and a lot of business is conducted in English. My stepfather is from The Netherlands so while I can’t get citizenship through that I have a lot of family there.
Loved this! I live in the Boston area and have worked in the Navy yard for 27 years. I have those same amazing views that are mentioned from my office- feel so lucky to be able to see the harbor/skyline each and every workday and to be able to eat lunch out on the boat docs in the summer!
My family and I are from the Boston are, temporarily living on the W. Coast w/ the Navy. I know everything Amy describes…I can see all the familiar scenes in my mind. We miss it there on a gut level and can’t wait to move back permanently.
And I pine away for the west coast! I guess it’s all about how/ where you grew up